A giant shrugs

Building on the shoulders of giants is great advice. But at any time a platform can make a change that will unintentionally harm your business, and instantly it changes your businesses trajectory.

For the better part of the past 3 years, I’ve been building an app that’s available on eCommerce platforms, namely Shopify & WooCommerce. It’s been a great arrangement for the most part, these platforms provide an ecosystem to extend. We plugged into it and customers showed up. Distribution solved.

Going into it, I knew there was always a risk to building a business on a platform, but the built in demand that came from plugging into an ecosystem made it worth worthwhile.

What happened

In this case, Shopify has decided to deprioritize an entire segment of merchants simply by quietly dropping support for a payment gateway. There was no official announcement, no changelog mention.

It took me some time to realize this happened, our growth rate started to slow. I looked at our marketing pages, SEO, onboarding experience, and tried to understand the cause. And now it’s clear.

Going forward

This definitely isn’t the end of the app, nor does it kill the business. But what it does do is alter the plans for investing further integrations in one platform.

We have a decision to make, either port to another platform with a history of supporting our segment, or try our hand at the open web. The later is a horizontal play that keeps the DNA of the company intact, while the latter is pivoting the entire main value prop away from eCommerce integrations.

Is it all that bad?

Not terribly. The app will continue to run on Shopify and we’ll continue to support it. But Shopify has shown it’s intentions and we’re going to have to now adapt again. It’s like finding product market fit again.

I’m thankful for all that Shopify’s App Store has done for me. It’s taught me so many lessons that can’t be learned from simply reading about building SaaS businesses. And I would still recommend it as a start for any developer looking to scratch that entrepreneurship itch on the side.

Sometimes the giant shrugs, and it doesn’t even notice.